Special to The Mississippi Link
JACKSON – NAACP leaders from around the country gathered in Jackson recently to honor the memory of their former leader, Medgar Evers and to hold their annual meeting.
Evers was assassinated nearly 50 years ago outside his home in Jackson.
NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous and board chairwoman Roslyn Brock helped Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, lay a wreath at the home, now a museum on Thursday, May 16.
Evers-Williams told nearly 200 people that she still remembers hearing the shot that killed her husband in their carport on June 12, 1963. She and their three young children, Darrell, Reena and Van, were waiting up for him.
Reena is now Executive Director of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute, which has planned a series of events commemorating the slain civil rights leader’s life.
The pain in Evers-William’s eyes is apparent when she is asked about the aftermath of that incident.
Her former home on Guynes Street (now called Margaret Walker Alexander Drive), was a house where children studied their lessons, ate supper, bickered and played, and knew the sound of their father’s car coming up the street and pulling into the driveway.
But it’s a house that can make her fiery eyes narrow into angry slits of bitterness.
“I never go back there by myself,” she said. “I go there enough for events. I never go there on my own.”
A young family’s starter home is meant to be a place of fond memories of happy poverty and clumsy innocence. It doesn’t usually become tainted with so much pain, but for Evers-Williams, there was no other way to take it. She recalls how they had to station the sofa and furniture away from the main frame window in the living room because it provided too good a view for child-murdering snipers. Evers-Williams said the bullet that killed Medgar, after wreaking havoc throughout the home’s interior, actually came to rest on a countertop next to a watermelon. It sat there, stained with her husband’s blood, boldly daring them all to hate it.
After all this time, she is unable to stifle the red-tainted memories of her children screaming for Medgar Evers to “get up” as he lay bleeding to death in the driveway.
Evers served as the Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP, and his assassination at the hands of segregationists helped stoke opposition against state-sponsored segregation in the South. This weekend features a series of events to honor his life, including a tribute concert and a civil rights bus tour of Jackson.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock stated: “On this hallowed occasion, we honor Medgar Evers and the sacrifice he made to advance civil rights. Even knowing how dangerous his work was, he was willing to risk his life in the name of social justice. Fifty years later, there is no better way to celebrate his life than to return to the town where he lived, worked and changed the world.”
NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous echoed the Chairman’s sentiments saying: “Medgar Evers’ work and sacrifice has called generations of civil rights activists to action. As we approach the 50th anniversary of his assassination, we can best honor his legacy as a fearless freedom fighter by continuing his work to end discrimination and ensure equality for all.”
“The Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP has a responsibility to continue to uplift the legacy of Civil Rights heroes such as Medgar Evers,” stated Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “Bringing national attention to this historic occasion helps the next generation to understand the history so that our communities can continue to prosper. This is what Medgar Evers would’ve wanted.”
“The National NAACP Board hasn’t held a meeting here in Jackson for 30 years,” said former Supreme Court Justice Fred L. Banks Jr., who is also chair of the NAACP Legal Committee and the longest serving member of the National NAACP Board, serving since 1981. “This is a tremendous honor for Jackson and the state of Mississippi. It isn’t easy to get something this massive here to Jackson.”